Just when the Breeders' Cup Juvenile was beginning to look like as big a jinx as ever, Talkin Man made his first start since that November race and coasted to a seven-length victory Saturday in the $250,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
Of the 13 horses that ran in the Juvenile, Talkin Man is only the second to win a race this year. Even Timber Country, who won the Juvenile and was voted division champion, is winless in two 1995 starts. From 1984-93, none of the winners of the Juvenile won a Triple Crown race.
Talkin Man was last year's champion 2-year-old colt in Canada, but in the Breeders' Cup he faded from second to 10th in the last three-eighths of a mile. Trainer Roger Attfield learned after the race that Talkin Man was suffering from a virus. He didn't run again until Saturday.
"It was a solid race," Attfield said. "I was a bit concerned about the time off and the fact that he was giving weight in this race. It was a tall task. I thought he was up to it, but I did a little less with him than I could have."
Talkin Man's goal is the Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs, where last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile was run. His final prep race for the Derby will be either the Wood Memorial, also at Aqueduct, or the Blue Grass at Keeneland. Both of those $500,000 races will be run on April 15.
Only four foreign-bred horses have won the Derby, the last being the Canadian-bred Sunny's Halo in 1983. Derby winners seldom make their first starts as 3-year-olds as late as the end of March, but Sunny's Halo didn't run in 1983 until March 26, one day later than Talkin Man's 3-year-old debut Saturday.
Jumron, from Great Britain, is another foreign-bred whose connections have Derby aspirations, although most of his racing has been in the United States. The Santa Anita-based colt made his third consecutive start at Bay Meadows on Saturday, winning the $150,000 Golden State Derby by three-quarters of a length over Slewker, a non-stakes winner who was running in the claiming ranks last year.
"Maybe we got overconfident," said Gary Lewis, who has two victories in three tries since he's been training Jumron. The colt hadn't started in more than two months, and he's likely to run next in the Blue Grass.
Jumron's margin in the 1 1/16-mile race might have been small, but Adalberto Lopez, the rider of Slewker, didn't give his horse much of a chance once the winner and Goncalino Almeida ranged alongside in the final strides.
"The other horse was just much, much the best," Lopez said. "He was just playing with me."
Almeida has ridden Jumron in all three of his races under Lewis. "He needed this race," Almeida said. "I believe he is still getting better and better. I just hit him three or four times, but not hard. It was just to tell him to go."
Jumron paid $2.40 in a five-horse field and was timed in 1:43 3/5.
At Aqueduct, the 8-5 favorite, Da Hoss, set the pace but couldn't keep up after Talkin Man and Mike Smith made their move at the top of the stretch.
Devious Course, the second choice, finished third, two lengths behind Da Hoss.
Because of his impressive stakes record at Woodbine as a 2-year-old--three victories in a row before the Breeders' Cup--Talkin Man carried 122 pounds, five more than Da Hoss and Devious Course.
Horse Racing Notes
Sandpit is the 3-5 morning-line favorite for today's San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita. . . . Under aggressive handling by Eddie Delahoussaye, Top Rung was a half-length winner over Angi Go in Saturday's $80,325 Santa Lucia Handicap. "This race just goes to show you that some horses love that stick," Delahoussaye said. "Wehn I got after her left-handed, she just dug in." . . . Borodislew, the 4-5 favorite, was third, beaten by four lengths. . . . Top Rung, bred and owned by Leonard Lavin and trained by Willard Proctor, has four victories and two seconds in eight starts. She carried 116 pounds, three less than Borodislew and two less than Angi Go.